Balance. You hear that a lot as a parent. “How does she manage to balance it all?” “How can I balance it all?” “Will I ever find balance in my life?”
This may be contrary to anything you’ve ever heard before, but the answer to those questions is:
- She doesn’t.
- You can’t.
Now breathe. I am not a pessimist and this column is not meant to make you feel defeated. In fact, I have just given you permission to (as a wise friend recently told me) ”give yourself a break” . Stop worrying about trying to find that perfect balance between parenting and working and maintaining the house and your relationship and your pre-parent body, etc. In over 14 years of parenting, I have yet to find that proverbial “balance.” But nonetheless, without that balance I have still managed to live a pretty happy, fulfilling —albeit sometimes stressful — life as a mom of three, wife and writer.
It hasn’t all been sunshine and roses (or in my case daisies, they last longer and I like their simplicity). There have been meltdowns and panic attacks, bouts of depression and times when I feel like I am a complete failure, but I can honestly tell you that 90 percent of those “episodes” come at times when I feel that undue pressure to “have it all” to “find that balance.” Inevitably it never happens and at those time I feel like the hamster who runs for hours in that damn wheel and never goes anywhere.
Is it realistic for us Moms to believe that we can care for our kids; excel at our careers; get three healthy meals a day on the table; have a pantry stocked at all times; keep a clean house; get the 10 or more loads of laundry washed, folded and put way each week; have the house vacuumed and dusted; the bathrooms cleaned; get an hour of exercise at least five days a week; nurture a relationship with a significant other, provide ourselves with adequate time to bond with our girlfriends; make sure our pets are well-trained and walked regularly; stay connected with the rest of our families; send Thank Yous out in a timely manner; socialize with other couples; attend our children’s extra-curriculars; give each child quality time etc. etc. etc.? Not for me.
At any time that imaginary scale of parenthood (or in my case, motherhood) we continually try to balance is more like a seesaw — sometimes we are on target with healthy meals, homework help and keeping the house clean and neat, while other times the scales tips towards a better relationship with our spouse (or significant other), staying fit and excelling at work.
Parenthood is a balancing act, but if you aim to equally balance that scale at all times, you will continually fail. And who wants to live like that? Again, not me.
As we approach the beginning of a new school year, I plan to tip that scale towards a little “me” time; attending my kids sporting events, making sure my kids adjust well to their new schools (two new highschoolers and a new middleschooler), doing more creative writing and growing both my websites, and making sure my husband stays stress-free through work and football. The laundry may pile up some, the dogs may still greet visitors too vigorously because they haven’t been walked (or trained) enough and my thank-you cards may sit on the counter a little longer than they should, signed but unaddressed — but I am giving myself permission be OK with that and to just let things be, while remaining a little unbalanced.
Because I know that soon enough, the scales will tip in another direction and at some point everything will even out — just not at the same time. And that’s just fine by me (I hope).